stats Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels


  This site         Tips

  The Web Google


  Where to Find It

Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business



Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store

Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business




  Arts & Entertainment



   Headline Index

 Other Sections

  Births & Deaths






  Facts & Arguments




  Real Estate









  Food & Dining




  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...


   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site



  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us



 Web Site

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


Calgary architects sell their tribute to modernism
The hilltop home of Jeremy Sturgess and Lesley Beale is built for drinking in the light

Email this article Print this article
Friday, December 7, 2018 – Page H6

1901 21 Ave. SW BANKVIEW,


Asking price: $1.485-million

Taxes: $5,212 (2017) Lot size: 32.5 feet by 95 feet

Listing agent: John McNeill, Century 21 Bamber Realty Ltd.

THE BACKSTORY Seen from the street, you realize the black and silver modernist house set into the slope of a hill is actually a duplex, sharing a common wall and a front staircase (meant to evoke houses from Jeremy Sturgess's boyhood in Montreal) with a neighbour living in the twin of this unit. It's one of six houses the couple built or designed over the years in the immediate area (one was an addition to a domed house across the street, another was their own first home in the neighbourhood). This house sits in the middle of three units on a corner lot they subdivided with the other two homeowners.

"This part of Calgary is really on a big hill; by topography we're taller than Nose Hill, which we have a big view of. It's a very old community, we're on a steep narrow street, so it's our own little bit of San Francisco," Lesley Beale said.

Built in 2002, the house was also a chance to experiment with modernist architecture. "In our earlier houses, there were still dining rooms, still separation of uses. This is really about creating singular space that accommodates changes of mood and program," Mr. Sturgess said.

Inside the front door is one vast two-storey space. The sitting area and front-porch access is separated from the kitchen and dining area by a floating steel staircase to the upper floor (and also a stairwell down to the garage-accessible basement, with utilities, two guest rooms and one of three bathrooms). The floor and stair risers are the same variegated Brazilian cherry wood, which mixes lighter tones with richer tones in a warm organic patina that never repeats itself.

"Instead of having interior walls, you have a steel beam, and instead of putting the steel beam around the window and burying around the window frame, we decided steel is really a beautiful material - let's expose it in that middle beam," Ms. Beale said. "It harkens back to Maison Chareau in Paris, also known as the Glass House. That was part of the modernist movement with 'honesty in materials' and you express and show - you don't cover stuff up with decoration."

That same honesty in steel is reflected in the couple's later works, including the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park, a marquee landmark.

In 1932, in his Maison de Verre, Pierre Chareau made liberal use of concrete, screens and glass brick, but the Sturgess-Beale house prefers slate where hard surfaces are needed; the kitchen counter is split-face slate ("One of my favourite materials; after 15 years it looks brand new," Mr.

Sturgess said), and the fireplace is black slate. There are no screens, but the stairwell's railings also resemble the thin, almost delicate feel of the Maison de Verre. The rear wall of the kitchen is also panes of glass, with sliding walkouts to the garden. It's a space designed for entertaining 100 people at a time.

"We had the entire National Youth Orchestra of Canada in here," Ms. Beale said.

Upstairs is the 10-by-19-foot master bedroom, a walk-through closet and master bath (walk-in shower and soaker tub) and laundry room - which can be screened from the rest of the house by sliding panels hidden in the walls - and the office, which bends around the balcony of the second floor that is open to the living room. There's rooftop access in the office and a small balcony next to the master.

"It's a really special house, a prototype for how to live an elegant but modest sort of lifestyle," Mr. Sturgess said. "When I say modest, the house is 171 square metres - which is large. This is an alternative to buying a penthouse apartment; it offers something that's a little more rooted in the neighbourhood."

The house has been on sale since August, but the couple are not in a rush (they already own their next home in Vancouver, where more of Ms. Beale's family has relocated over the years).

Their agent has also warned them it could take a while more to sell with Alberta's economy in rough straights.

"The market is challenged,"

Century 21 Bamber Realty Ltd.

sales associate John McNeill said.

"But we have something really special and a very high level of quality. There's always a market for the best." The neighbourhood is also special, he says - a diverse community close to downtown and due west from the prestigious Mount Royal area. It's clearly ideal for a single or a couple, but could accommodate a small family, too. "I've had a family in the neighbourhood look at it ... the draw of the architecture is so compelling."

THE HOUSE TODAY Almost everything about the house that celebrated Calgary architects Ms. Beale and Mr. Sturgess built for themselves was about enhancing the "phenomenal light quality" of the city they have lived, worked in and helped to build for more than 30 years.

A 20-foot-high window wall on the front and a 10-footer on the back of the house, the interior space is almost devoid of separations, and yet everywhere there is privacy, too. "There are no blinds on our windows," says Mr. Sturgess, who angled the house toward a view of downtown Calgary's skyline, and angled its front deck toward the street in such a way that blocked an easy view into the interior of the house from passersby. This is a structure that drinks in the light: "It's pretty bright in Calgary, we're so far north. The deck on the front - it gets sunshine in the evening."

The backyard garden, Ms.Beale's pride and joy, gets more than its share of light, too.

Framed by columnar aspen trees (perfect for surviving Calgary's chinooks), it combines a large seating and entertaining space with lush plantings and the architects' eye for landscape design. Again, despite feeling like a park, there's "absolute privacy in it. There's no view into the garden," she said, even though there are houses on the slope above them.

"This was the house for us after our kids had grown up," Mr.Sturgess said, and it is a living example of their architectural legacy.

THE BEST FEATURE It's a cliché, but families spend most of their time in the kitchen, and the Beale-Sturgess kitchen is open and modern, but also playful with one of the bold dashes of colour in the house with limegreen cabinets and backsplash behind the gas range. Framed by the remaining dark wood cabinets and dark slate of the island, and the lighter exposed woodframed windows of the rear wall and that cherry floor extended throughout it's both modern and comfortably warm. The same colours continue outside into the verdant garden and wooden deck.

There's also a secret: The pantry behind the kitchen has its own prep space and counters, a small sink and enough space to offer an out-of-the-way place for catering staff to work those hundred-person parties.

And if you're worried about the price, consider this, Mr. Sturgess said: "People come to us to design houses, I don't think they come to us any more for anything less than $1.5-million." And that's without the land, he notes.

Here, for the same price you can have a piece of Canadian architectural heritage, and that phenomenal light, too.

Associated Graphic

The 'phenomenal' light of Calgary floods into this modernist home through large window walls placed at the front and back of the house.


The house, built by celebrated architects Lesley Beale and Jeremy Sturgess, is an experiment in modernist architecture that, despite its windows, offers absolute privacy because of its angle toward the street. It has been on sale since August, but the couple are in no rush to sell.

Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Jeffrey_Simpson Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.


7-Day Site Search

Breaking News

Today's Weather


Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes

Where Manley is going with his first budget



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
Margaret Wente arrow
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game

Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
Mathew Ingram arrow
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
Andrew Willis arrow

Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
Eric Duhatschek arrow
Allan Maki arrow
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
 The Arts

John Doyle arrow
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
Johanna Schneller arrow

Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
Paul Knox arrow
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
William Thorsell arrow

Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page